Hawaii is the first state in the US to raise its smoking age to 21, a measure that was signed into law on Friday and will become effective January 1st. The law bans the sale of cigarettes and e-cigarettes to anyone under 21; it also bans their public possession and consumption until that age.
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Bumping the age to 21 is expected to have a big impact
Lately, there has been a growing trend of people speaking out against the prevalence of e-cigarettes in the lives of our teens. While they were once hailed as a "healthy" alternative to smoking, they are now being called "problematic" by some health officials. In its legislation, Hawaii notes that a poll of six of its high schools found that 25 percent of 9th and 10th grade students had used an electronic smoking device at least once and 18 percent used one regularly. "Raising the minimum age as part of our comprehensive tobacco control efforts will help reduce tobacco use among our youth and increase the likelihood that our keiki will grow up to be tobacco-free," Hawaii Governor David Ige says in a statement, using the Hawaiian word for children.
The state goes on to say that over a third of the current smokers in Hawaii started the habit between the ages of 18 and 20. If you didn't realize, that is when purchasing cigarettes becomes legal - and when teens have more impact on the actions of each other. Recent research from the Institute of Medicine has suggested just as much, with a recent report saying that nationwide smoking prevalence would fall by 12 percent with a national smoking age of 21, according to CNN.
Hawaii has now chosen to ban e-cigarettes for those under 21, and it is unclear whether the rest of the United States will follow. Even with the ban in action, Hawaii notes that e-cigarettes are a potentially better alternative to traditional cigarettes, but it also fairly points out that "more research is needed" to determine "whether using electronic smoking devices carries more benefits than risks." The FDA is expected to issue new guidelines on cigarettes and tobacco, which could place national restrictions on e-cigarette sales. The state also says that they have already seen positive results from the ban of other tobacco products.
Hawaii also provided some more information: the state says that between 2001 and 2012, heart disease deaths dropped 34 percent, stroke deaths dropped 43 percent, and lung cancer deaths dropped 21 percent. It claims to have the third-lowest adult smoking rate in the US, and it evidently wants to maintain that lead.
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Let's see if the rest of the states follow suit.